Privatisation’ is a politically-charged term without a precise definition. In Britain it is associated with the sell-off of nationalised industries and utilities under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. The classic model involved whole enterprises being moved into private ownership through the mass sale of shares. But historically this is only one manifestation of privatisation.
Some supporters of privatisation have defined it so broadly as to mean “the act of reducing the role of government, or increasing the role of the private sector, in an activity, or in the ownership of assets.” Academic definitions accept that the deregulation of state monopolies, the outsourcing of state responsibilities and the cessation of services that were once offered by the state can all constitute privatisation.
Privatisation has become more controversial because of the evidence around its impact. Ministers often refute accusations of it by saying that there is no 'sell off' of the NHS, but many of the ways in which the the private sector have been involved in the NHS would qualify as privatisation according to these academic definitions.